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It was neither the best of times, nor the worst of times. It was the most football of times for Carson Palmer, a man who has probably had less eventful weekends.
Friday came the ecstasy. Six weeks shy of his 35th birthday, Palmer signed a three-year, $50 million extension, one that includes $20.5 million guaranteed. Sunday came the agony. Palmer tore his left ACL, an injury he’s suffered before, and one that changed his career forever.
Now Palmer — a man who knows the fleeting glory and physical pain of the NFL all too well — finds himself at another career crossroads. The 8-1, and NFL-leading, Arizona Cardinals find themselves without a quarterback. The Birds are 2-1 in games started by Drew Stanton, but the statistics don’t tell the story of a winning quarterback. Stanton came on to complete 3-of-5 passes for 85 yards and a touchdown against the Rams, but converted a grisly 48.8 percent of his throws across his three starts, averaging just 6.01 yards per attempt. In no one game did Stanton complete more than 54.5 percent of his passes. Completion percentage is not an end all, be all stat for coach Bruce Arians, who emphasizes big plays over ruthless efficiency. But you don’t pass like that in the modern NFL and last long. Ask Tim Tebow.
Making matters much worse is the fact that Stanton is being thrown into a hornet’s nest of a schedule, getting the Lions’ league-best defense in Week 11 before traveling to Seattle to do battle with the Legion of Boom in Week 12. Maybe Stanton minds the store as the Cardinals keep winning with big plays from their receivers, defense and special teams. More than likely, he’s a liability for a team that entered Sunday with one goal in mind: Super Bowl.
In theory, Palmer’s situation is cut and dry. With his contract guaranteed for 2015, he should be ready to be the Cardinals’ Week 1 starter longer provided he rehabs without setbacks. In reality, he’ll be a 35-year-old quarterback coming off a second catastrophic knee injury. Palmer could already barely move in the pocket. In 2015 he might be a mannequin with a pliable arm. Always philosophical about his career, Palmer has already thrown in the towel on two different teams. It wouldn’t be the most-surprising thing in the world were he to decide he’s had enough, and called it a day.
Friday, Palmer and the Cardinals woke up with the world at their feet in the NFL’s toughest division. Monday, they woke up wondering who pulled the rug out from underneath them. You might call that unfair. Palmer and the Cardinals know it’s just football.
Five Things That Went According To Plan In Week 10
Calvin Johnson’s return. It took Megatron all of two series to announce his presence, as he smoked Brent Grimes for a 49-yard touchdown. Mega actually drew sticky coverage from the Dolphins’ No. 1 cornerback, but still bested him for a 7/113/1 line on 15 targets. The world’s best receiver has now played four healthy games this season. He’s averaged 6.5/111/0.75. Oft imitated, Johnson is never duplicated. He’s going to make Patrick Peterson and the Cardinals miserable in Week 11, and could well be fantasy’s No. 1 receiver for the second half of the season.
Mike Evans’ continued rise. Not even another quarterback change could slow the No. 7 overall pick down. Evans nearly matched his 7/124/2 Week 9 across the board, stinging the Falcons for seven grabs, a season-high 125 yards and a touchdown. Evans now has five scores across his past five games, and is averaging a weekly 5/73. His Week 11 and 12 matchups could scarcely be better, as the Bucs will be squaring off with the Redskins and Bears.
Marshawn Lynch’s continued reinvigoration against the Giants. Four touchdowns: For when one, two or three isn’t enough. Beast Mode embarrassed the G-Men’s Jon Beason-less Run D, nearly doubling his rushing-touchdown total while putting the Seahawks on his back for the second-consecutive week. With Russell Wilson and Seattle’s passing “attack” having gone in the gutter, riding Lynch isn't a formula coach Pete Carroll is about to change. The Chiefs, who are allowing 4.7 yards per carry, are on deck for Week 11.
Jimmy Graham heating up for the stretch run. Graham had his best game since Week 2, snagging 10 passes for 76 yards and two touchdowns. He could have had one of the best games of his career if not for a European soccer-style flop from 49ers CB Perrish Cox. Graham hauled in a 47-yard hail mary for his third score as time ran out on regulation, but Cox acted as it he had been shot when Graham placed his hand on his chest, and the ref threw a flag. Either way, Graham now has four touchdowns in his past three games, and appears to be over his shoulder injury. For Week 11, he gets a crumbling Bengals defense that’s been getting pasted by tight ends.
Ryan Tannehill’s cooling against the Lions. Facing a defense allowing (by far) the fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, Tannehill escaped Motown with only one score, and zero yards rushing. It had been the ground, of course, that fueled Tannehill’s recent run at QB1 status. As has often been the case, it was the deep ball that held Tannehill back through the air, as he couldn’t make an easy pass for what would have been a 60-yard touchdown strike to Mike Wallace. Tannehill’s reward for his comedown is a Week 11 date with the Bills’ elite defense on only three days' rest. He’ll be a low-end QB2.
Five Things That Didn’t Go According To Plan In Week 10
The Bears getting on track following their bye week. The Bears were disemboweled at Lambeau Field, heading into halftime with a 42-0 deficit two weeks after trailing 38-7 at the break in New England. Jay Cutler will get the blame, as usual, but it was Mel Tucker’s defense that truly fell apart. Tucker’s DBs seemed to have never heard of Jordy Nelson, and allowed Aaron Rodgers to rip off scores of 73, 40 and 56 yards in one 10-minute span in the second quarter. Cutler was culpable too, of course, throwing a disastrous early pick and failing to move the offense before things got out of hand. But it’s impossible to succeed when there’s no room for error, and Cutler has had zero practically all season.
Ronnie Hillman’s solidification of No. 1 duties in Denver. Battling through an ankle injury against the hapless Raiders, Hillman was limited to just eight touches for 22 yards before the Broncos mothballed him and rode with C.J. Anderson’s “hot hand.” The benching was supposedly only a precaution, but eye-brow raising considering Hillman’s health, his Week 9 struggles in pass protection and the impending return of Montee Ball. Hillman’s not about to be phased out of the game plan, but his usage could become unpredictable. Fantasy owners need to be on their toes, and perhaps prepared to leave Hillman on the bench in Week 11.
Ben Roethlisberger staying hot versus the Jets. If not for an 80-yard garbage time strike to Martavis Bryant, Big Ben would have finished with zero scores after rolling up 12 in Weeks 8-9. He committed two turnovers, and watched his receivers commit two more. Back down to earth, Roethlisberger gets one more inviting matchup in the Titans before going on bye in Week 12. Ben has proven he’s a QB1, but he’s also proven that he’s not an elite one.
Frank Gore’s production with a bigger workload. Gore’s 23 carries against the Saints were his most since Week 4, but the increased reps didn’t agree with his effectiveness. Gore ran out of gas as the game progressed, gaining just 25 yards on his final 10 touches, and getting the rock only once in the contest’s final 13 minutes. It was backup Carlos Hyde who sparked the Niners in overtime. For the season, Gore’s YPC is now sub-4.00 at 3.97. Gore and Hyde have a dream Week 11 matchup in the Giants’ supernova’d run defense, but Angry Frank may be to the point where no opponent can be considered easy money.
Lamar Miller’s production. We knew there was a chance Miller might be limited as he played through a sprained AC joint in his shoulder. We didn’t know that he’d be limited to only five total touches, zero of which came in the game’s final 24 minutes. Miller got as many looks as Daniel Thomas, and was out-touched 10-5 by Damien Williams. Now the Dolphins are on a short week, playing host to the Bills’ fearsome defense on Thursday. With Miller’s health up in the air for a tough matchup, he’s shaping up as an RB3 for a team who tends to shed little-to-no-light on its injuries.
1. Did the Raiders think Dennis Allen was the problem?
2. Come on kid, haven’t you ever heard of DeSean Jackson?
3. Which came first: Justin Hunter or the one-catch game?
Early Waiver Look (Players owned in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)
QB: Mark Sanchez, Robert Griffin III, Drew Stanton, Michael Vick
RB: Tre Mason, Jonas Gray, Carlos Hyde, C.J. Anderson
WR: Cecil Shorts, Allen Robinson, Jordan Matthews, Jarvis Landry
TE: Mychal Rivera, Kyle Rudolph, Austin Seferian-Jenkins
Stats Of The Week
As Mr. Field Yates observed on Sunday, the Bucs and Jets have three combined wins this season. Two of them have come against the Steelers.
From Football Outsiders’ Scott Kacsmar: Peyton Manning’s 31 completions gained 340 yards against the Raiders. Derek Carr's 30 against the Broncos? 192. It took Carr 41 attempts to break 100 yards. As Scott said, no comment.
Russell Wilson has gone in the tank as a passer, but his three 100-yard days on the ground are more than the likes of anyone not named Arian Foster or DeMarco Murray. It’s keeping his floor propped up, and salvaging hope for his ceiling.
DeMarco Murray’s 100-yard performance was his ninth in 10 games. He’s on pace for 1,972 yards rushing.
James Jones caught eight passes for 20 yards against the Broncos. As discovered by Mike Clay, that’s the fewest yards for any eight-catch performance by a wide receiver in NFL history. The 2014 Raiders: Where Impossible Happens.
Making his NFL debut, Charles Sims got out-snapped 44-25 by Bobby Rainey, but drew as many touches (10). Rainey out-gained Sims 56-40, however. Both are shaping up as RB3s for the time being.
Week 10 Fantasy All-Pro Team: QB Aaron Rodgers, RB Marshawn Lynch, RB Justin Forsett, WR Dez Bryant, WR Jordy Nelson, WR Emmanuel Sanders, TE Jimmy Graham
The This Is Your Life Award: Poor Brock Osweiler.
Tweet of the Week, from J.J. Zachariason: Just got a text from my brother saying someone in his league forgot to switch Dalton for Rodgers this week — his bye week filler from last.
The You Get What You Paid For Award: Shonn Greene costing the Titans a touchdown with a goal-line fumble.
The Stop Calling Timeouts For Other Teams Award: Joe Philbin.
Lie Of The Week: Ken Whisenhunt for some reason claiming he didn’t bench Shonn Greene.